Editor’s note: our writer Marija Odineca part of the Labs of Latvia team
Just in a month, on March 3, the Latvian startup community platform Labs of Latvia is launching. In our region we have seen a trend of location-based startup community platforms of various kinds, including #CPHFTW, Øresund Startups, #SthlmTech in the Nordics and Startup Lithuania and Startup Estonia in the Baltics. Community platforms are great uniters, storytellers and entry points to their scenes. And I joined building one for my home scene, for all the right reasons:
1. Media needs stories
The media is made up of journalists and journalists are just people. Since I joined ArcticStartup and connected to other tech writers, I saw many aspects of Kincaid’s ‘Burned out Blogger’s guide to PR’ come alive. Tech journalists come to media because they love to write about new exciting startups, yet, ironically, often end up covering the same companies again and again, to easier meet the deadlines. When you need a number of pieces by a certain time, browsing through a lot of sites or even emails looking for an exciting startup becomes a luxury. Why? Because the new sources may or may not give you a great story, while you could pick a source you already know and get the piece done.
This is not to say that journalists do not cover new companies. We always did and we still do. Yet the new startups are often just an addition to the ‘proven’ stories, a cake that we publish after the main dish is served.
Bottom line: Journalists are overwhelmed individuals with short attention span. Putting all news sources in one convenient place makes it so much easier for a journalist to fetch a story. This levels the playing field for a (relatively) unknown startup.
2. Investors need dealflow
A while ago I stumbled upon this Medium post by Roberto Bonanzinga, known to me as investor in Swedish Tictail. His candid discussion of what he calls ‘the investor struggle’ resonated with many and was actively shared on social media. I decided to give it a try inconspicuously touching upon some of his points in my conversations with investors.
What I can confirm from my anecdotal evidence supports the core idea. Investors admit, with a healthy dose of irony, that they keep tirelessly hunting down new investment targets, yet often procrastinate decision-making..Then, regardless of what decision is made, they admit to keep struggling: either thinking whether passing on this investment was wise or helping their new portfolio company grow while reconsidering whether it was worth it. Investors, same as journalists, are first of all people – just like you and me.
Bottom line: Investors are individuals looking for investment targets and local syndicate partners. They embrace solutions to their struggles. Investors appreciate help with due diligence, local contacts, data and intelligence.
3. Startups need a stronger voice: to reach investors and media
The startup space is becoming more and more crowded, and so are its communication channels. Organic Facebook reach is trickling thinner, the Web itself contains over 4.4 billion indexed pages, yet our days keep at their immutable 24 hours. If you think it’s difficult for media and investors, just think about entrepreneurs themselves.
The most underestimated budget items on your startup’s Excel sheets are ‘marketing’ and ‘customer acquisition’. The value of attention is rising sharply. You have probably heard the story of Marc Köhlbrugge launching BetaList (if not, it is an 8 min read here). In short: nobody knew about his startup and no one wanted to know about it until it had users. But as the chicken and egg problem goes, it is hard to have users if nobody knows about you. So he created a platform gathering this kind of startups and pitched it to TechCrunch in a hope to get traffic for his own startup. Even though TechCrunch did not write about beta startups, this basic tumblr page got their attention and a consequent article sent massive amounts of traffic to all featured projects. BetaList is still followed by over 25,000 journalists, investors and early adopters.
Bottom line: Investors and journalists are people with a constant 24h a day and a growing number of information sources. They need one source that aggregates and updates information on Latvian startups for them instead of manually doing it themselves.
4. Non-members need an entry point to the scene
Ever gone to another city and found yourself browsing through your phonebook or email for possible introduction points? We all did. Going to a new market is a random walk for many – investors, journalists, startups, community builders.
Labs of Latvia is built to make Latvian startup scene as transparent, understandable and easy to reach as possible.
What you do is you ping people you know and then get introduced to people they happen to think of at that particular point. While the credibility of personal introductions serves as a handy filter, it also cuts out valuable opportunities.
Additionally, locals who only consider becoming startup founders or investors are often tapping in the dark. These potential members need a transparent and inviting place where they can understand the scene and easily join it.
Bottom line: Non-members, such as foreign investors, journalists, startups, community builders, are looking for local contacts and appreciate a straightforward way of finding them. Local aspiring members need transparency and ease of access.
5. The state needs growth, jobs and innovation
The stronger your tendency to follow government news, the more likely are these obvious words to provoke a facepalm. Nevertheless, there are practical motivations behind these buzzwords. The previous government initiatives in Latvia have been found to focus on providing funds with capital, rather than helping startups develop their ideas to a fundable level. New initiatives in this planning period aim to correct this.
Practically this means helping unite and attract talent to the startup world, foster investment, launch of new businesses, growth clusters and ascension of opportunistic crazy people with big dreams to Latvian celebrities, role models and next entrepreneurial investors. This Latvian startup community platform is funded by Latvian Guarantee Agency, which is a fund of funds distributing money from European Investment Fund to publically co-founded venture capital funds. Its funding to the platform represents a direct interest of enhancing the dealflow for local VC funds, as well as an indirect interest of contributing to Latvian technology economy.
Bottom line: Latvian government understands that financing VC funds is not enough and that startups and potential founders need support to achieve investment readiness.
These are my five reasons to support unification of Latvian startup scene, join the creation of Latvian startup community platform and put my name on it. If this story resonates with you, I invite you to join Labs of Latvia platform here, share your ideas and suggestions onFacebook or Twitter, and join our launch event on March 3, where we will reward the best idea authors
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